News from the Chicago Chapter

The Value of Storytelling in Property Management Today

Posted by [email protected] on 07/01/2019 3:00 pm  

By Steve Schimmel, CPM®
IREM Chicago 2019 Treasurer


As the Chicago Chapter Treasurer, I had the privilege of attending the IREM Regional Meeting held in St. Louis. One of the key items that I took away from the meeting was the power of storytelling. This may sound very simple and even unimportant in a property managers day-to-day activities, but there is great depth to the stories that we have and they deserve to be told.

A story can be broken down into five key elements. First there is the Exposition of the Story, the background, the setup or origin needed to understand the story. Second, there is some sort of incident that occurs. This is often a problem, or a question that must be answered.  Third, the plot thickens, and the story may become more intense.  Fourth, there is a climax to the story.  This can be a turning point, a high point in tension and suspense. Lastly, there is resolution and closure to a story.  Why is the structure of story telling important? 

As property managers we have great stories to share.  We run multimillion-dollar buildings with similar sized budgets.  We oversee teams of people that house hundreds or even thousands of residential and commercial tenants.  Our jobs allow people to work, to live, to make a living, and even provide the most basic of things to some -- including dignity.  When we tell our stories in the above method, people remember them because  there is an emotional connection and it highlights the work we do. 

After learning about storytelling, and the need to tell the good stories of property management, a colleague rose to tell a touching story.  While I cannot articulate the story in the same way this gentleman did, I can tell you that something as small as a budget variance and a good building management team provided dignity and a safe place for dozens of people.  This gentlemen’s building had experienced a very odd plumbing issue. The team on the ground at this facility was able to recognize the issue, call in the appropriate vendors and make emergency repairs to a sewer system.  This may seem very commonplace for a manager.

What was so significant about this story was that one of the building tenants happened to be an organization that provided food and showers to the homeless population of that community.  Had the building management team not been able to quickly identify and repair the problem, this tenant -- whose purpose was to serve the needs of the community -- would not have been able to care for a population that doesn’t have many people looking out for them.  This manager described a tenant who was in tears, thanking him for allowing then to continue to be able to serve those in need. 

That is not only a good story but one that needs to be told. This story has all the key storytelling components; leaving out one of the parts would take away from the impact of the this story.  As property managers, we are full of stories. Let’s start telling the good ones that can make a difference.